The Auspicious Timing of Glenn Beck’s Zeal for Zion

At his “Restoring Honor” rally last August, speaking from the spot in Washington DC where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, Glenn Beck and guests blamed liberals for the state of the nation and the world. Joining him in the seat of American power was Sarah Palin, who, with her signal lack of originality and predilection for repetition, told the crowd: “We must restore America and restore her honor.”

For this year’s “Restoring Courage” rally on August 24, Beck has set his sights even higher, gathering the elite of the conservative faithful in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem—or, in the Christian Zionist imagination, God’s ‘seat of power.’ In his announcement of the rally, writes the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank

Beck offered the apocalyptic prediction that “the force of darkness” would “attack the center of our faith” with “a two-state solution that cuts off Jerusalem.” He further predicted that, at his rally in Jerusalem, “the very gates of Hell are going to open up against us.” Later, he said that Israel may be destroyed “by Labor Day weekend” and that his gathering “may be the last time you get to see the holy sights.”

Many American social conservatives share a pessismism concerning the sorry state of the world; a world that only God, and not humans in their hubris, can redeem. But there is one sign in recent history that demonstrates that God does still move in history: He returned the Jews to their land. One can see why Beck, positioned between the end of his Fox TV program and the beginning of his internet broadcast venture, would stage his next rally in Jerusalem. After all, unconditional support for Israel plays brilliantly with his fans, and proximity to the ‘original seat of power’ can’t hurt when you’re embarking on a new venture.

Early Christian Zionist pilgrims to Israel were dismayed to find that the country’s political and cultural elites were for the most part assertively secular. Today, however, the Israeli religious right wields considerable power, prompting Beck, during a recent meeting with a select group of Israeli politicians, to lean over to his assistant and whisper “Can you believe how much God plays a role here?”

Yet the plan attracted little media attention when it was first announced, with the exception of Rachel Maddow, who quipped:

In terms of America not helping matters in the Middle East, what could be worse than Fox News exporting its end-of-the world conspiracy theorist who sees communists and George Soros as a Jewish puppet master in everything? What American export could be less helpful to the Middle East than that?

In early June, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) appeared on Beck’s now-defunct TV show to announce that he would be joining Beck and the faithful at the rally. When Milbank confronted the former Democrat with evidence of Beck’s strange rantings about “the Elders of Zion” and his claim that the Jews killed Jesus, the senator backed away from his commitment, saying: “am I going to go? I don’t know… I’ve got a lot of other things going on.”

Whether or not he shows it appears that Restoring Courage won’t have trouble drawing a crowd as all 600 of the $5,000 prime seats have all sold out.

On the July 11, Beck visited Jerusalem to lay the groundwork for this year’s events and to speak with Knesset members allied with the Christian Right. In his conversation with Likud Party members (including Danny Danon, the MK who invited him to address the group of Israeli lawmakers), Beck referred to the ancient areas of Jerusalem as “the original seats of power.” According to a Jerusalem Post report, Beck implied that his idea for the rally “came to him in divine inspiration.”

And returning to the proposal of a two-state solution, which he had denounced initially, Beck made clear to the Likud politicians that he now shared their view that there’s no room for compromise, since “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about the destruction of Israel and the West.” Danon nailed it when he said to Beck, “You support Israel unconditionally.”  

It’s the unconditionality of Beck’s declared commitment to Israel that appeals so deeply to fans for whom the State of Israel is God’s favorite, and can literally do no wrong. As Jerry Falwell stated in the 1960s, “Israel is God’s timepiece. When I want to understand what is happening in history—I look at what is happening to Israel.” And if we want to understand the career of a conservative Christian personality like Beck, perhaps we need only take a good look at his relationship to Israel.